cover image The Siamese Twin Mystery

The Siamese Twin Mystery

Ellery Queen. Penzler, $25.95 (292p) ISBN 978-1-61316-155-5

First published in 1933, this entry in the American Mystery Classics series shows Queen (the pen name of Fredric Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) at his best, expertly combining plot and setting to heighten suspense en route to the satisfying solution. Amateur sleuth Ellery Queen and his father, NYPD homicide inspector Richard Queen, run into a forest fire while driving in Upstate New York. They take refuge in the mountain top home of surgeon John Xavier, where Richard has a bizarre night-time encounter with a creature resembling a giant crab—and a member of the household is shot to death and found clutching half of a playing card, apparently a clue to the killer’s identity. With local law enforcement preoccupied with fighting the blaze, Richard is deputized to investigate, but another life is claimed before Ellery can put the puzzle pieces together. The claustrophobic impact of the fire moving closer and closer to the Xavier home, with no prospect of rescue, is palpable. This rivals Christianna Brand’s Green for Danger as a classic of brilliant deduction under extreme circumstances. (Feb.)